It is not often that startups, big companies, and a celebrity chef come together to talk growth strategies, but that was the scene at the annual Executive Marketing Summit at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.
Offering tips on brand development—and how to choose the best tomatoes each season—television personality and chef Mario Batali took the stage sporting his signature orange Crocs. Known for such restaurants as Babbo in New York and his Eataly artisanal food and wine market, Batali said his brand has evolved based on what customers crave.
“They want spaghetti, they want a glass of wine, and they want honesty,” he said in a fireside chat with Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawkbox.
Batali favors brand messages that are focused and to the point. When planning a new menu at his restaurants, he said, details of the entrees must be succinct. “Can we describe what this experience is in one or two sentences?” he asked. “If we can’t, then we stop and reconsider.” Customers do not have time for lengthy descriptions, Batali said, when deciding what they want.
Creating a widely known brand can also lead to a few headaches, and Batali learned the hard way how important it is to manage the image that gets portrayed in public. “You have to constantly think about the best way to present your brand without insulting people,” he said.
Batali spoke about how he dealt with the blowback from a less than flattering comparison he made, during a panel discussion in 2011, about Wall Street executives and former fascist dictators. “My misinterpretation of that debate was that it was just us,” he said.
The news media quickly jumped on the comments, which Batali said led to a boycott of his restaurants. “I took my lumps and I apologized,” he said. “You’re accountable for everything you say in the public space.”
Batali’s story was one of many shared at the marketing summit, which was hosted by NYSE Euronext, Interbrand, The New York Times, and CNBC.
A panel on growth strategies from rising companies featured an East Coast-West Coast lineup of Hayley Barna, co-CEO of Birchbox in New York; Clara Shih, CEO and founder of San Francisco-based Hearsay Social; Scott Sanborn, chief operating officer of Lending Club in San Francisco; and Bill Day, CEO of Tremor Video (NYSE: TRMR), based in New York.
Sorkin, who served as the panel’s moderator, asked what these companies consider when weighing whether to remain independent and go public, merge with a peer, or sell the business.
A number of options are available for Birchbox, Barna said, which ships monthly lifestyle and beauty product samples to subscribers. She wants her company to become an indespensible part of the beauty industry. “We could do it independently but we also see a way that partnering with another company could supercharge inevitability,” she said.
On Monday, JetBlue Airways announced a partnership that makes Birchbox the provider of amenity kits for men and women that will be given in-flight to customers in a new brand of premium seats.
Though Birchbox is private, Barna said finding ways to allow early employees to take a small percent of their vested shares off the table could encourage them to work even harder—especially to pay back college loans or cover a down payment on an apartment. “It’s expensive to live in New York,” Barna said.
Employees at Tremor Video, which went public in June, were able to take partial cash-outs of their shares, Day said. “We controlled it, in the sense of how much … Next Page »
João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth.